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South Whidbey Harbor project gets pricey
Barely one month after a barge accident brought work on the South Whidbey Harbor expansion project to a screeching halt, port officials are once again facing a series of unexpected headaches.
Last week, Port of South Whidbey Manager Ed Field was back before the board with bad news, but instead of sunken cranes he had the unpleasant task of going over $83,000 in recently submitted and unplanned expenses.
The bills, combined with about $20,000 of unexpected invoices already approved by the commissioners, adds up to more than $100,000. That’s uncomfortably close to exceeding the $1.7 million renovation’s 10 percent reserve and putting the entire project over budget.
Port commissioners were not happy about the development, particularly board President Curt Gordon. The owner of a private contracting firm, he had strong opinions about the invoices’ legitimacy and stiff words for both district staff and the port’s hired engineering firm, Reid Middleton.
“There are legitimate expenses and then there is piling on,” Gordon said.
The port is relying on both the engineering firm and Field, the project manager for the project, to be the district’s “advocates” on the ground, he said. Gordon strongly implied that there is room for improvement.
“I don’t have to remind you what you’ve been paid,” said Gordon, speaking to a Reid Middleton representative at the meeting.
According to Field, the marina project has been hit with “constant surprises” over the past several weeks. Most recently, work on a water line unearthed several unexpected discoveries, including buried logs — at least one was over 20 feet long — and fuel-contaminated soil.
The level of contamination is enough that the dirt can’t be redeposited. Instead, it must be disposed of elsewhere and new fill purchased. So far, waterline-related expenses have topped $25,000.
In other construction work, problems with breakwater shackles racked up about $22,000 in unplanned bills, while another $28,000 resulted from issues surrounding piling installation. The work took longer than expected and one of the piles, which are used as underwater anchors for the breakwater, could not be pounded to depth. As of last week, Field said the plan was to cut off the top so it would not be a navigation hazard.
Finally, electrical work not part of the original project budget totaled $8,000.
According to Field, the vast majority of the invoices were submitted by the port’s primary contractor, Friday Harbor-based Mike Carlson Enterprises.
“We have to make sure we stop this bleeding,” Gordon said. “We’re not the Port of Everett. We go over budget, we could affect salaries next year.”
Shannon Kinsella of Reid Middleton said there is lots more work ahead, such as splitting the breakwater into sections, an effort that began this week.
“There is definitely critical work going on in the next two to three weeks ... I don’t predict anything, but it all depends on how it goes,” she said.
Field said he would review the invoices and look for any “piling on.” He will report back to the board at a special meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15., at the port’s Freeland headquarters.